Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were deep on the defensive side in 2018-19. It was in this area where the club had an abundance of experience to start the season. It only got better in the spring as some key pickups further strengthened Rockford on the way to a long playoff run.

Back with a look at the back end of the roster, here are my thoughts on the defense.

The Sparkplugs

Cody Franson (37 games, 9 G, 19 A, plus-nine)

Adam Clendening (38 games, 4 G, 26 A, plus-two)

The addition of these two veteran blueliners completely changed the course of the IceHogs fortunes. The power play went from being a laughing stock to the most dangerous in the AHL.

Franson performed like you would expect a NHL-level talent to upon arriving in Rockford. The 30-year-old Franson immediately became a locker room sage and offensive catalyst, with six power play goals in the regular season, then four more in the playoffs. A point a game player in the postseason (6 G, 7 A), Franson totaled 15 goals and 41 points in 50 games in an IceHogs sweater.

Clendening, who was returning to Rockford after stints in several other organizations, saw his scoring touch return in a big way. After five points in 21 games for Tuscon to begin the season, Clendening went on a tear and wound up leading all Hogs defensemen in scoring despite joining Rockford well into the season.

So far as a return engagement from this exciting duo…

Franson was quite open about his future (or non-future to be more accurate) in the organization past this season. His steamrolling through the AHL might open a few doors as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

On the other hand, Clendening is an RFA and could be re-signed at low cost to the Blackhawks. The question is, will Chicago tender an offer to a player who couldn’t secure an NHL spot in the organization in his first go-round? Clendening would be a nice piece to start building next fall’s Hogs roster; we’ll see what transpires in the next couple weeks.

 

The Big Guy

Viktor Svedberg (73 games, 6 G, 18 A, plus-18)

The 6-9 Swede began his time in the organization as a project; Svedberg is now a UFA following his fifth season, most of which was spent with the IceHogs.

I’ll come right out and say it. Svedberg brought an awful lot to the table in 2017-18. Here’s why:

This was easily his best season from an offensive standpoint. He also potted a couple of big shootout goals when called upon.

Svedberg began the season healthy and stayed that way, playing a career-high 73 games. For a guy who had trouble staying on the ice in past years, it was satisfying to see him showcase his game.

Svedberg still gets a bad rap from some Rockford fans for his defensive liabilities, which were on full display for most of his first three seasons. That’s too bad, because he was arguably the IceHogs best defender this year.

I could count on one hand the number of times that Svedberg was caught out of position in his own zone, leading to an open shot attempt. He is never going to be a player who can use his skating ability to get him out of trouble. However, he has learned to take advantage of his reach and positioning to be effective.

Svedberg was often an alternate captain (coach Jeremy Colliton never named a captain this season) and was one of the few skaters (before DiDomenico and Lance Bouma showed up) willing to stick his nose into a scrum. When Franson arrived, Svedberg completed a very solid (and physically imposing) top pairing.

Svedberg has come a long way in five years and certainly could provide some organizational depth and leadership in Rockford. It will be interesting to see what offers he fields in free agency.

 

The All-Star

Carl Dahlstrom (64 games, 3 G, 28 A, plus-14)

Dahlstrom was a substitute for Erik Gustafsson in the AHL’s All-Star Classic and took his game up a notch in his second full season in Rockford.

Dahlstrom was a steady defender and took a bigger role at the other end of the ice in 2017-18. He looked a lot more confident bringing the puck out of his zone this season and earned a stint in Chicago late in the spring. It seems likely that he is in line to earn a spot on the Hawks roster in training camp the way things look right now.

Franson and Clendening altered the pecking order among the defensemen; Dahlstrom definitely had a reduced role on the power play. His shot attempts at even strength took a hit as well, with a drop in frequency of about 23 percent after he came back from Chicago in March.

Dahlstrom last drew cord for the Hogs on January 13. In his last 26 regular season games with the Hogs, he managed just nine assists. Dahlstrom rebounded in the playoffs with three goals and six helpers.

 

The Passed Over

Gustav Forsling (18 games, 2 G, 3 A, minus-four)

The other player most affected by Franson and Clendening’s presence was Forsling. When he was sent to Rockford in January, he scored in his season debut with the Hogs, then went dormant offensively. Once the vets joined the team the next month, there wasn’t much of an offensive role for the 21-year-old.

Forsling got some time quarterbacking the second power play unit. He had one assist on the man advantage in the regular season and another one in the playoffs. He was a bit more noticeable in the postseason, with a goal and five helpers. However, most of his time was spent on the bottom pairing.

Forsling did not distinguish himself on the scoreboard in his time in Rockford. At the same time, he didn’t defend very well either, at least in my opinion. Had Forsling had a more prominent spot in the lineup, he might have picked up his play in the latter part of the season. That didn’t happen.

 

The Prospects

Darren Raddysh (66 games, 5 G, 17 A, plus-ten)

Luc Snuggerud (40 games, 5 G, 12 A, minus-three)

Robin Norell (63 games, 2 G, 5 A, plus-two)

Raddysh had the biggest impact of these three players, earning himself an NHL entry deal from Chicago last month. He found himself in the lineup over several players with NHL contracts this past season, something that also held true nine times in the playoffs.

Snuggerud’s rookie season was interrupted for two months after suffering an upper body injury December 8. He had a pair of goals and eight assists after returning in February, but did not suit up in the postseason.

Norell’s campaign began with a savage beat-down at the hands of Brett Gallant in Cleveland opening night. It ended in the press box in the postseason.

After a four-game point streak in December, Norell went 43 games without a goal or an assist until getting a goal in the regular season finale in Chicago. This, despite playing as a forward for much of that time with line mates who regularly found the net.

His defensive play at forward was often praised by Colliton, though apparently not enough to get him on the ice at any position in the playoffs.

Norell skates hard, but isn’t a real physical player and isn’t gifted with a great shot. It may be hard for him to find time on the blueline this fall.

 

The Other Guys

Ville Pokka (4 G, 18 A) played 46 games in Rockford before being traded to Ottawa for Chris DiDomenico. Pokka was perfectly serviceable for the Hogs but was spinning his tires in the organization. The return on the exchange was a vital part of Rockford’s late season success.

Gustafsson (3 G, 14 A) was with the Hogs for 25 games before spending the remainder of the season in Chicago. Joni Tuulola was scoreless in two regular season games and four postseason appearances.

Also putting up goose eggs in limited action in 2017-18 were AHL contracts Brandon Anselmini and Robin Press, who each got into seven games.  Former Hog Nolan Valleau was brought in on a PTO for three games and then released.

 

Where Does The D Go From Here?

Chicago has added Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson and Henri Jokiharju to the list of prospects on defense. With Tuulola set to begin his rookie season and five holdovers, the position is crowded even without a veteran signing like Clendening or Svedberg.

As is the case at every position, the next month will surely see some turnover. The blueline will certainly be a lot younger in 2018-19.

This week, I hope to start sifting through the forwards in one additional installment of my year-end look at the IceHogs. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the Hogs throughout the summer.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have battled their way into a spot in the AHL’s postseason party…for now.

With nine games left heading into action Monday, the Hogs are a point ahead of Iowa for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Rockford overtook the Wild with two regulation wins in three games this week, including a 5-2 win in DesMoines last Monday.

This season is far from over. Just two of Rockford’s final nine games is at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Iowa and Milwaukee, who beat the IceHogs in Rockford Friday night, are still within striking distance. The Admirals sit just three points back of Rockford, who like Iowa and Milwaukee have played 67 games this season.

The Hogs draw a tough assignment to start this week’s action. Rockford is in Winnipeg for two games with the division-leading Moose on Monday and Wednesday.

Manitoba is not the same red-hot squad of earlier this season and they have been much better on the road than in its own building. However, the Moose have won both contests with Rockford this season. Manitoba is second in the AHL in scoring with 3.39 goals per contest. They have a lethal power play (21.6 efficiency) and are fast and physical on the ice.

The Moose have five 40-plus point scorers on the active roster. By contrast, Rockford’s top point producer, Anthony Louis, has 38 points on the season. The Hogs have been grinding out a lot of wins lately, though Rockford is putting up an average of 3.03 goals a game.

I figure that the IceHogs are going to have to win six of these last nine games to make the postseason. A split up north is vital to making that happen. Following Wednesday’s tilt with the Moose, Rockford hosts San Jose on Saturday night.

 

Viktor S Scores A Viktor-E

It is very apparent that the IceHogs will set a franchise record for courtesy this season. This weekend, a Rockford skater earned a fighting major for just the tenth time this season. The Hogs will obliterate the previous low of 39.

That tenth scrap came in the third period of a tight game with the Chicago Wolves, when Viktor Svedberg got tired of the antics of Wolves forward Keegan Kolesar. What made this fight memorable is the fact that for the first time this season, a Rockford skater scored anything resembling a clear win over an opponent.

In his second dropping of the gloves this month, Svedberg landed several blows and bloodied the nose of his adversary. The 6’9” defenseman spent the next five minutes icing his right hand, so hopefully he’s none the worse for wear.

Svedberg has been a healthy and effective part of the lineup in 2017-18. In 64 games this season, he has set career highs in goals (six) and points (21).  His skater rating of plus-16 is tied for the team lead.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs saw the arrival of forward Victor Ejdsell this past week, as well as his departure. Ejdsell played two games with Rockford before be recalled by the Hawks. The 6’5″ Swede impressed me with his skating and positioning in his appearances at the BMO this weekend. He had an assist against Milwaukee Friday.

Rockford also signed D Joni Tuulola to a PTO on Friday. Tuulola had been playing in his native Finland this season.

 

Recaps

Rockford won two of three games this week, good enough to move into fourth place in the Central Division. The Hogs are 34-25-4-4 in 2017-18.

Monday, March 19-Rockford 5, Iowa 2

The Hogs posted a key road win over the Wild, paced by a pair of goals by Chris DiDomenico.

Rockford got on the board in the sixth minute when Graham Knott got a piece of a Luc Snuggerud shot on its way to the net. At the 12:23 mark, Luke Johnson made it a 2-0 game after taking a pass from Cody Franson and skaking to the right dot.

Iowa pulled back to 2-1 on a Mitch McLain goal, but DiDomenico won control of a loose puck in the Rockford zone and brought it all the way back into Wild territory. Shooting from the left circle, the puck glanced off the crossbar, off defenseman Alex Grant and into the cage for a 3-1 Hogs lead 17:19 into the first period.

DiDomenico made it a 4-1 Rockford advantage with a power play strike 3:18 into the second period. The goal was set up by Adam Clendening, who found DiDomenico at the top of the right circle for the slap shot.

Kyle Rau scored midway through the second period to close the gap to 4-2, but that was as close as things got in DesMoine on this night. Viktor Svedberg banked a clearing attempt off the glass and into an empty net in the closing minutes to seal the win.

No lines tonight; Robin Norell skated as a forward. The Hogs were two of five on the power play. Jeff Glass stopped 31 of 33 shots to pick up his 13th win of the season. DiDomenico and Franson (two assists) were named the first and third stars of the game.

 

Friday, March 23-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

Things got away from the IceHogs in the final period. The desperate Admirals dropped four goals on Rockford to end an eight-game Hogs points streak.

Tyler Sikura got a shot past the pads of Anders Lindback 5:01 into the game. The puck slowly slid toward the goal line until Henrik Samuelsson gave it a last push to the net to give the IceHogs the lead.

The score would remain 1-0 through the majority of the first two periods. Milwaukee tied the game with 25 seconds left in the middle frame on an Anthony Richard goal.

The third period was a wild affair that did not end well for Rockford. Former Hog Mark McNeill gave the Ads a 2-1 lead after Adam Clendening whiffed on a pass attempt from deep in his own zone. Midway through the third, Lance Bouma slipped a shot between Lindback and the left post to tie the game. From there, it was all Milwaukee.

Bobby Butler hit on the game-winner with a backdoor goal 10:09 into the final period. McNeill and Richard both added empty net scores in the last minute to finish off the Hogs.

Lines (starters in italics)

Tanner Kero (A)-Graham Knott-Kyle Maksimovich

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Victor Ejdsell

Alex Wideman-Luke Johnson (A)-Matheson Iacopelli

Adam Clendening (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson-Viktor Svedberg

Darren Raddysh-Robin Norell

Jeff Glass

Power Play (0-1)

Johnson-Sikura-DiDomenico-Clendening-Franson

Louis-Ejdsell-Iacopelli-Samuelsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Ads were 1-4, though that goal came with the Hogs net empty.)

Bouma-Sikura-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-Kero-Norell-Dahlstrom

Johnson-Samuelsson-Clendening-Raddysh

 

Saturday, March 24-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

The IceHogs rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to post the win over the Wolves.

Chicago got goals from Brandon Pirri and Teemu Pulkkinen in the first 20 minutes to put the Hogs in a hole. Rockford came out digging in the second period.

In the opening minute of the middle frame, William Pelletier had a shot deflect off of Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhardt. The puck was gathered in by Lance Bouma at the left circle. His shot got the best of Chicago goalie Max Legace and made it a 2-1 game 49 seconds into the second.

Rockford tied the game at the 8:37 mark when Matheson Iacopelli zipped a wrist shot from the left point that caught the far side corner past Legace. A few minutes later, the Hogs took the lead.

Tyler Sikura went behind the Chicago net to chase down Luc Snuggerud’s shot attempt. Finding Henrik Samuelsson open at the right dot, Sikura’s pass was rifled into the back of the Wolves net at the 15:28 mark.

Less than a minute later, Darren Raddysh broke up a entry pass by Wade Megan and got the puck to Chris DiDomenico skating the other way. DiDomenico hit Bouma coming into the Wolves zone and Bouma handled the rest, twining his attempt past Legace for a 4-2 Rockford advantage at 16:17 of the second period.

Pulkkinen answered for Chicago late in the second to cut the Hogs advantage to 4-3. However, that was it for the Wolves offense. Collin Delia made several outstanding saves on point blank Wolves attempts late in the second to preserve the one-goal lead. Rockford added an empty-netter from DiDomenico with 1:50 remaining to put a ribbon on a fine comeback effort.

Bouma and DiDomenico were the game’s first two stars. Delia wound up with the victory, with 33 saves on the evening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Henrik Samuelsson-Victor Ejdsell-Tyler Sikura

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Colin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDomenico-Clendening-Franson

Samuelsson-Iacopelli-Louis-Ejdsell-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 1-4)

Bouma-Sikura-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-Kero-Raddysh-Dahlstrom

Johnson-Samuelsson-Clendening-Snuggerud

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates of the IceHogs push to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, have put together a pretty decent point-streak in their last few games. The question is whether or not it will be enough to extend their 2017-18 season.

Rockford has four wins over the course of a six-game point streak. Two of their wins in that span came against the Chicago Wolves, one of the leagues best teams the second half of the campaign. However, the Hogs still sit in fifth place in the Central Division, one spot out of the playoffs.

What the IceHogs need right now is regulation wins against key division opponents. This past week afforded just that opportunity. Rockford had games with Iowa and Grand Rapids, the two teams currently ahead of them in the standings.

Rockford beat the Wild 3-2 at the BMO Harris Bank center Tuesday and dropped a 4-3 decision to the Griffins at Van Andel Arena. Not bad, but not good enough. Both games were decided in overtime.

Clean regulation wins in those two games would have leapfrogged the Hogs over Grand Rapids and into fourth place. Rockford is still very much in the hunt for a postseason berth. They do have two more games with the Wild this season, including Monday’s tilt in DesMoines. With just 12 games left on the schedule, though, there is no margin of error.

 

Roster Moves

On Saturday, the IceHogs recalled forward Alex Wideman from the Indy Fuel. Sunday, Rockford added forward Kyle Maksimovich, who was signed to an amateur tryout.

Maksimovich comes from the junior ranks; he served as captain of his team, the Erie Otters. This season, Maksimovich totaled 66 points (31 G, 35 A).

We’ll have to see if the 20-year-old will get playing time with Rockford making a bid to reach the postseason. With the roster a bit thin at forward, it’s a possibility.

 

Three Games, Five Points

As of Monday, Rockford sit fifth in the Central Division. They are a single point behind Grand Rapids in the standings. Iowa is still within reach, more so if the Hogs can get two points at Wells Fargo Arena tonight.

Annual work commitments keep me out of both the BMO and my basement at this point in the Hogs schedule. Here’s a brief recap of how the week went for Rockford.

 

Tuesday, March 13-Rockford 3, Iowa 2 (OT)

The IceHogs sent 47 shots to the Wild net in regulation; just two found the back of it. However, Rockford showed that never-say-die attitude we’ve seen throughout the season, rallying from a goal down in the third period.

Henrik Samuelsson evened things up in the 15th minute of the third, knocking in a rebound of Cody Franson’s shot. The Hogs won in Gus Macker Time when Andreas Martinsen redirected another Franson offering. Collin Delia picked up the win, stopping 33 of 35 shots.

 

Friday, March 16- Grand Rapids 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

Rockford came back twice in this contest. The Hogs got off the deck after falling behind 2-0, thanks to a pair of goals by Viktor Svedberg. Rockford fell behind after a Ben Street power play goal in the third period, but got an equalizer on a Luke Johnson tip-in with 41 seconds to play.

The extra point went the way of the Griffins, as Eric Tangradi swiped a puck from Anthony Louis, skated to the slot and fired past the blocker of Collin Delia.

 

Saturday, March 17-Rockford 3, Chicago 2

Brandon Pirri got the Wolves up 1-0 4:25 into the game, but the Hogs prevailed at Allstate Arena for the second time in six days.

The first of three unanswered goals was scored on the power play by Matheson Iacopelli. The rookie forward snapped a laser from the high slot after being set up by Henrik Samuelsson late in the second period.

A Wolves miscue while on the man advantage gave Tyler Sikura a breakaway chance early in the third. Sikura beat a sliding Oscar Dansk to a loose puck that had slid into the Wolves zone. Guiding the biscuit into the vacated basket, the shorthanded tally put the Hogs up 2-1 4:11 into the third.

Anthony Louis got open in the slot a couple of minutes later, taking a pass from Chris DiDomenico and firing past Dansk for a 3-1 Rockford lead 6:30 into the final frame.

Chicago managed to close the gap with a Jake Bischoff goal, but the Hogs hung on for another big division win over the Wolves. Jeff Glass got the win, stopping 27 of the 29 shots he faced.

 

This Week

Another pivotal week of divisional play looms for Rockford, starting tonight in DesMoines. Beating Iowa in regulation would send them past idle Grand Rapids and right behind the Wild for third place in the Central.

The last Hogs home stand of the season is a two-game affair. The action begins Friday night against Milwaukee. The following night, the Wolves visit the BMO.

I hope to be sending out thoughts during tonight’s game in Iowa. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for IceHogs musings all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, will be embarking on a pivotal road trip this week. At six games, it is the longest time away from the BMO Harris Bank Center this season.

This is a key stretch; after a very friendly schedule to begin the season, the piglets are going to have to get it done in the opposition’s barn for a while. With two rookie goalies still trying to get acclimated to AHL competition, Rockford is in danger of dovetailing out of playoff contention.

In what is proving to be quite the log jam behind Central Division-leading Manitoba, Rockford is finding themselves drifting down the ladder. The Hogs started the week in second place. As of Monday morning, they’re in fifth following a 1-2-0-1 week.

The play in net has been inconsistent. After Jeff Glass’s promotion to the Hawks, Rockford has won just twice in its last seven games. Rockford’s young club has grown accustomed to a bit of a Get Out Of Jail Free card behind them. That is not going to be the case as this road trip begins.

The IceHogs power play has perked up, with goals in each game of what was the team’s final three-in-three stretch of the campaign. However, the penalty kill gave up five goals in 11 opportunities for the opposition. The Hogs also surrendered a key shorthanded goal to Milwaukee Sunday that cost them a point in what became a shootout loss to the Admirals.

The youngsters have fared well in the first half of the 2017-18 season. Now comes a real gut-check of a second half…hop on the bus, Gus.

Rockford will be playing 24 of its final 39 games as the visiting team from now until the regular season ends. The Hogs are 6-7-0-1 on the road heading into action this week. For this team to nab a spot in the playoffs, they will have to be better than that.

The trip begins with a California swing that will see Rockford play three games in four days. First up is Ontario on Wednesday night. The IceHogs next visit San Jose and Bakersfield on Friday and Saturday.

Coincidentally, the Reign, Barracuda and Condors occupy the last three spots in the AHL’s Pacific Division right now. Battling cellar-dwellers isn’t all its cracked up to be; Rockford managed just one win in three games with Cleveland and Grand Rapids.

Next week, Rockford visits Cleveland on January 17 and 19 before wrapping up the trip in Grand Rapids. The boys will likely return to Rockford for a few days following the return from the coast, so it won’t be quite as demanding as it sounds.

However, Chicago (and Milwaukee to a lesser extent) is surging right now. Grand Rapids is starting to put together wins. The results of this jaunt could factor into playoff potential for the IceHogs in a few months.

 

Nay, Cap’n?

We are well into the fourth month of the season and Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton has yet to announce a captain for his club. Will Colliton find leadership out on the road?

At home, the “A”s have been on the sweaters of Laurent Dauphin, Ville Pokka and Luke Johnson.

On the road, the “A”s have been worn by Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg and Andreas Martinsen.

This week, the latter group wore the letters on Tuesday (home game), Friday (road game) and Saturday (home game). On Sunday (home game), the regular home group displayed letters.

Wrinkle: The red sweaters, usually worn on the road, were used on the aforementioned games Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday, Rockford wore the alternate sweaters. Maybe they just didn’t want to take the letters off.

Seems like the team leaders should have emerged by this point. Maybe someone upgrades to a “C” when the team returns to the BMO. Stay tuned.

 

All Stars Named

Two Rockford skaters were named to the Central Division squad for the 2018 All-Star Classic, to be held January 28-29. Well…one Rockford skater and one Blackhawks skater.

Erik Gustafsson will be making his first appearance in the event. Vinnie Hinostroza will likely need a substitute for his spot on the team, unless the Hawks send him back to Rockford before the end of the month. Hey…how about Matthew Highmore? The rookie leads Rockford in points (26) and goals (17).

 

Roster Happenings

No movement from the Hogs this past week. I’d think a recall might be in order this week, though.

Rockford has been skating with 12 forwards on the current roster since David Kampf was recalled to Chicago. Alexandre Fortin was a late scratch on Sunday; it might be beneficial to have an extra forward for the road trip.

Luc Snuggerud has still not returned to the lineup. He’s been out since December 8. Carl Dahlstrom was also a scratch Sunday. Rockford still has seven healthy defensemen if both Snuggerud and Dahlstrom are unavailable.

A return hasn’t been announced for injured goalie J.F. Berube; I’m guessing he will not be ready to play in California and sits out that half of the trip.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, January 2-Cleveland 4, Rockford 1

A pair of former IceHogs factored heavily in the Monsters coming to town and handing Rockford its third straight loss. Local products Alex and Terry Broadhurst have four of Cleveland’s seven goals against the IceHogs this season. Three of those came Tuesday for the last-place Monsters.

Cleveland got the scoring started when Terry Broadhurst got an open look in front of Hogs goalie Colin Delia in the opening minutes. Delia made the pad save, but the rebound came right back to Broadhurst and the second attempt got over that left pad an into the net at the 3:23 mark.

Rockford had several chances to even the score. Alexandre Fortin got a stretch pass and was way behind the defense. However, his backhand attempt was snuffed out by Cleveland rookie goalie Matiss Kivelnieks. The IceHogs had two power plays in the first 20 minutes but squandered both chances.The Monsters led 1-0 through the first period.

Rockford would whiff on another man advantage midway through the second before Laurent Dauphin was sent to the box. The Monsters power play, worst in the league headed into the contest, came up with a goal at 11: 14 of the second when Paul Bittner stuck back a rebound of Alex Broadhurst’s attempt.

The Hogs trailed 2-0 for most of the remainder of the game. With 3:44 left in the final period, Tomas Jurco tossed the puck toward Kivelnieks from the left corner of the offensive zone. The tough-angle shot struck the Cleveland goalie and settled into the net.

The hope of tying the game prompted Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton to pull Delia in the final minutes. Terry Broadhurst outraced Anthony Louis for a loose puck and poked it down the ice into the empty net to put Cleveland up 3-1 with 1:18 remaining.

Colliton brought Delia to the bench again; this time Alex Broadhurst was the recipient of an empty net after catching up to Brady Austin’s clearing pass. Broadhust guided the puck into the Hogs net with 15 seconds remaining.

Delia had his best night since being called up to the IceHogs. He wasn’t spectacular but turned in a solid effort, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced. Most nights, that would have been enough to earn a win. Just not on this night.

Kivelnieks’s 35-save performance earned him the game’s first star, followed by Terry (2 G) and Alex (1 G, 2 A) Broadhurst.

Lines (Starters in italics; Rockford went with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Brandon Anselmini

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Matheson Iacopelli , Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (0-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Cleveland was 1-1)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Friday, January 5-Grand Rapids 5, Rockford 3

Grand Rapids got the scoring started midway through the first with a wide open back door conversion on the power play. The fireworks came in the middle frame.

The Hogs and Griffins traded goals three times, starting two minutes into the second with a Dominik Shine tally. Just seconds later, Matheson Iacopelli  and Graham Knott played a little patty cake on a 2-on-1 rush, culminating in Iacopelli’s seventh goal of the season at 2:17.

IceHogs goalie Colin Delia misplayed a puck behind his own net following the center ice faceoff. As happens in these situations, it would up in the back of his net, courtesy of Ben Street at 2:28 of the second.

The Griffins committed their own gaffe a few minutes later, turning the puck over between the circles in their own zone. Iacopelli was there to collect the gift. The rookie victimized the stick side of Grand Rapids goalie Jaren Coreau for the second time of the night, cutting the Griffins lead to 3-2 at 5:01 of the second.

Another misplay by Delia, this time off a Street shot, slid to Eric Tangradi at the right post. The veteran Griffins forward slid the offering across the goal line at 7:13 for a 4-2 Grand Rapids advantage.

Rockford returned fire with a power play goal at the 14:05 mark. The score was set up by an Erik Gustafsson blast from the point that rebounded off Coreau. Matthew Highmore was on the scene in front of the Griffins net to knock the puck in to close the gap to 4-3. That score held up into the second intermission.

Street’s second goal of the evening, a power play tally at 12:01 of the third, proved to be the nail in the Hogs coffin. Rockford threw 17 shots at Coreau in the final 20 minutes, but no dice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-2)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 0-2)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Saturday, January 6-Rockford 4, Cleveland 3 (SO)

Down two goals early, Rockford was able to rally to win the rematch with the Monsters at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Sam Kurker and Zac Dalpe put Cleveland ahead 2-0 in the first period. Before the night got away from the Hogs, the Rockford power play got a puck behind Joonas Korpisalo. Erik Gustafsson sent a shot from the top of the right circle that the Monsters goalie stopped. Matthew Highmore and Tanner Kero took whacks at the loose puck until Tomas Jurco collected it at the extended goal line. His shot caught cord at 18:18 of the first period; Rockford skated into the locker room down 2-1.

The Hogs tied the game 15 seconds into the second when Highmore redirected a Gustafsson blast into the Griffins net. The 2-2 score held up until the midway point of the game. Cleveland forced a turnover in the IceHogs zone after Rockford had scored a clean faceoff win. Cameron Gaunce one-timed a Carter Camper set up past Colin Delia to put the Monsters up 3-2 at the 10:42 mark.

Rockford evened the score again five minutes later. Laurent Dauphin came in ahead of the Cleveland defense to get a puck on net. Korpisalo knocked it aside, but Tyler Sikura was on hand to collect the rebound in the right corner along the goal line. Sikura’s shot eluded Korpisalo and made it 3-3 at 15:51 of the second.

Neither team could manage a goal in the third period or overtime. In fact, the only shot that made it across a goal line came from the stick of Anthony Louis, who beat Korpisalo in the opening round of the shootout. Delia held off attempts from Dalpe and Terry and Alex Broadhurst to give Rockford the victory.

Highmore, Jurco and Alex Broadhurst were named the game’s three stars, but Delia deserves recognition in what may have been his strongest game to date in the IceHogs net. Delia stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced, including a couple of big stops late in the game to keep the score even.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-6)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Griffins were 2-4)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Sunday, January 7-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 4 (SO)

Rockford failed to hold on to a late advantage, picking up a single point but falling to the Admirals in the shooting competition.

The power play got the Hogs started on the scoreboard midway through the opening period. As the clock wound down on the man advantage, Tomas Jurco took a pass from Anthony Louis at he top of the left circle. He worked his way toward the faceoff dot before snapping home a winner past Ads goalie Anders Lindback at 10:35 of the first.

Rockford started the second period up 1-0 and on a power play, nearly scoring early in the period. However, some sloppy play in the neutral zone allowed a shorthanded break the other way. Mark Zengerle had a free look in the slot, beating Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins high to tie the game 1-1 at 1:26 of the middle frame.

The IceHogs regained the lead 12:07 into the period. Viktor Svedberg skated the puck out of his zone and all the way to the Admirals goal line. His backhanded centering attempt was knocked into the Milwaukee net by Matthew Highmore for a 2-1 Rockford advantage at 12:07.

Former Hogs forward Cody Bass brought the Admirals back to even about four minutes later, when he batted in a floating puck off the crossbar and into the Rockford cage. The officials took a long look at the replay before upholding the goal call on the ice. That made it 2-2 at the 16:03 mark; the score held up as the buzzer ended the second period.

Milwaukee grabbed a 3-2 lead on a Bobby Butler power play goal 1:10 into the third. This time, it was Rockford’s turn to reply. They did at the 5:28 mark when William Pelletier jumped on a Milwaukee turnover and fired past Lindback in the slot. The puck hit the left post, but Tanner Kero was there to knock it into the net for a 3-3 tie.

It looked as if the IceHogs were going to come away with a win after Tyler Sikura’s terrific redirect effort of Matheson Iacopelli’s shot attempt. The score put Rockford up 4-3 at 17:08 of the third period. However, with 58 seconds remaining and Lindback on the bench, Butler stuck in a rebound to knot the game at four goals.

Milwaukee, shooting second after neither team could end the contest in overtime, got a first-round goal from Justin Kirkland. Jurco, Rockford’s third shooter, hit on a backhand attempt. Harry Zolnierczyk beat Tomkins on the Ads final shot to claim the win for the visitors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-Tomas Jurco

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-William Pelletier

Laurent Dauphin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-Matheson Iacopelli

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Darren Raddysh-Brandon Anselmini

Robin Press

Matt Tomkins

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Alexandre Fortin, Jordin Tootoo, Carl Dahlstrom, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Penalty Kill (Admirals were 1-4)

Highmore-Kero-Pokka-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Pokka-Svedberg

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have a few days off to savor a weekend sweep at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The Bago County Flying Piglets are hovering in the second spot in the AHL’s Central Division standings behind Manitoba.

Rockford put the BMO faithful through two nail-biters against Chicago and Grand Rapids, winning both contests behind Jeff Glass in net. Having sneaked down to my basement to prepare this post while my wife peels potatoes (everyone else being asleep), I am short on time before she notices that I am missing. Therefore, here’s the Reader’s Digest version of this post, along with the recaps:

  • Glass is starting virtually all of the games in net for the IceHogs. He did a great job keeping the Hogs in both games despite limited offensive support this weekend.
  • I don’t think they have much confidence in Colin Delia right now. Between Rockford and Indy, Delia has played exactly one game over the last month and a half. Rockford has three games back-to-back this weekend. You’d think Delia would get one of those starts in the interest of letting Glass come up for air.
  • The offense came mostly from the line of Anthony Louis, David Kampf and Tomas Jurco, who are creating a lot of chances.
  • Power play threw up a doughnut hole for the weekend. Coach Jeremy Colliton threw out five forwards on his first unit and three defensemen on his second in an attempt to shake things up. Didn’t work.
  • Erik Gustafsson might be back in action, along with Luc Snuggerud, this coming weekend…but who knows.
  • Hogs have a home-and-home with Iowa Thursday (Des Moines) and Friday (BMO) before visiting Chicago Saturday night.

Uh-oh…creatures are stirring all through our house…Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22-Rockford 3, Chicago 2 (OT)

It took nearly five extra minutes of Gus Macker Time, but the Hogs were able to break a three-game losing streak.

Rockford opened the scoring thanks to an incredible effort by Alexandre Fotin on the first shift of the game. Ville Pokka provided the genesis of the goal by corralling the puck in the corner of the IceHogs zone and sending a clearing pass to Andreas Martinsen.

Fortin received Martinsen’s quick feed coming across his own blueline. He then skated into Chicago territory and split Wolves defenders Chris Castro and Jake Walman. Fighting the two defensemen off as he made his way toward the net, Fortin manuvered around Chicago goalie Max Legace, who had come out to meet the three skaters. From there, Fortin slid the backhand into the unguarded cage to cue the horn and put Rockford ahead 1-0 just 41 seconds in.

The Wolves drew even late in the period while on a delayed penalty with a Brandon Pirri tally. Midway through the second, Chicago took a 2-1 lead after a quick transition burned the Hogs.

A long rebound of a Viktor Svedberg shot attempt came out to Connor Bleakley, who quickly hit teammate Tobias Lindberg coming into neutral ice. Lindberg came down the right side and fired over the glove of Rockford goalie Jeff Glass at 10:45 to put the Wolves on top.

Rockford would capitalize on a couple of rebounds early in the third for the equalizer. Lagace left a puck in front of his crease off a Tomas Jurco shot from the top of the right circle. Anthony Louis was there for the putback, but Lagace was there with the pad save. The third time proved to be the charm, as David Kampf pounced on the rebound at the left post, uniting rubber and twine 39 seconds into the period.

That closed out the scoring in regulation. The game-winner came 4:35 into the extra session. Matthew Highmore was wide on a shot attempt. Darren Raddysh gathered in the puck off of the end boards. He got it back to Highmore, who skated to the goal line below the left circle.

Raddysh, meanwhile, had looped around the offensive zone and streaked to the right post. He got his blade on the centering feed and knocked it just inside the post to end the contest on a winning note.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen

Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin (A)-William Pelletier

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka (A)

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg

Brandon Anselmini-Darren Raddysh

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Erik Gustafsson, Matheson Iacopelli, Jordin Tootoo

Power Play (0-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Kampf-Louis

Dauphin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dalstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 0-4)

Sikura-Martinsen-Norell-Pokka

Kampf-Johnson-Svedberg-Dahlstrom

Dauphin-Highmore-Anselmini-Raddsyh

 

Saturday, December 23-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 2 (SO)

Rockford allowed the Griffins a point with a very late goal in regulation. However, the Hogs prevailed in the shootout to go on holiday with a two-game winning streak.

Neither IceHogs goalie Jeff Glass or Grand Rapids counterpart Jared Coreau surrendered a goal in the first half of this game. The dam broke midway through the second period.

Tomas Jurco and Anthony Louis worked a little give and go once Rockford had gained entry into the Griffins zone. Louis got off a shot from the high slot that trickled under the pads of Coreau. David Kampf was the man on the scene at the right post; he reached behind Coreau and nudged the puck to its resting place in the back of the net. The IceHogs led 1-0 at the 8:01 mark.

The lead proved to be short-lived, as Grand Rapids came down to tie the game on the subsequent shift. Matt Lorito put in a long rebound of Dan Renouf’s point shot at 9:23 of the middle frame.

Jurco broke the tie 5:35 into the third. Making his way to the goal mouth with some deft stick handling, he got the puck into a scrum of players. Louis and Kampf helped things along until the biscuit came out to Jurco. His initial attempt was stopped by Coreau, but Jurco’s second effort drew cord.

That 2-1 lead held up for most, but not all of the final 15 minutes of regulation. Carl Dahlstrom was called for interference after Coreau had been called to the Griffins bench with just 50 seconds left. With a 6-on-4 advantage in the closing seconds, Grand Rapids made a desperate push into the Hogs zone.

The Griffins Ben Street sent a shot toward net the glanced off of Lorito and high into the air. Matthew Ford batted the offering over Glass and into the net with less than two seconds remaining.

Rockford had several breakaway opportunities in Gus Macker Time, but Highmore and Louis were both denied by Coreau. Glass came way out of his net to knock away a potential breakaway attempt, then made a highlight-reel stop on Ford’s open look late in the session…and on to the shootout it went.

Both goalies stonewalled their shooters in the first three rounds. Viktor Svedberg came out in round four and kept it simple, skating to the slot and banging home a slap shot past Coreau’s glove. Glass then snuffed out the attempt of Vili Saarijarvi with his left pad to seal the victory.

Jurco was rightly named the game’s first star, followed by Lorito and Glass, who stopped 31 of 33 shots in addition to the four shootout attempts.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen

Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin (A)-William Pelletier

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka (A)

Carl Dahlstrom-Darren Raddysh

Viktor Svedberg-Robin Press

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Erik Gustafsson, Matheson Iacopelli, Brandon Anselmini, Jordin Tootoo

Power Play (0-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Kampf-Louis

Dauphin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dalstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 0-4)

Sikura-Martinsen-Norell-Pokka

Kampf-Johnson-Svedberg-Dahlstrom

Dauphin-Highmore-Press-Raddsyh

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

Everything Else

There’s a lot of anxiety about the D-corps this year because for the first time in this era, there seem to be more questions than answers. Nowhere is this more evident than the 3rd pairing. Maybe it’s just that we’ve been spoiled with both a deep and overperforming D-corps throughout most of this Hawks era. But looking at these options is a bit like rummaging through the fridge after a bender. One of these guys is going to pair with Forsling, so let’s see if we can conjure who would be the best fit. (All of this assumes Franson doesn’t make the team. If he does, I’d be shocked if he weren’t the 6th D-man.)

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs haven’t fared well in overtime this season. This past weekend was a clear example of that deficiency.

The Blackhawks AHL affiliate opened up their return from the All-Star break with a pair of losses. Both came in Gus Macker Time and extended Rockford’s most recent winless streak to seven games.

The IceHogs are currently 0-7 in overtime contests this season. It would be nice to chalk this up to the team’s current offensive woes. Unfortunately, it goes a little further than this year’s schedule.

Rockford has not won an overtime game in the past 13 months.

Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the All-Star break could not come at a better time. I guess it could come in the middle of a winning streak, but that hasn’t happened much during the 2016-17 campaign.

The Hogs are next in action this Friday and have plenty to ponder this week. Rockford hits the break losers of its last five games. The IceHogs dropped all three games this past week. In doing so, they were out scored 14-5, including 8-0 in the third period.

With a .400 points percentage that is the worst in the league, visions of playoff hockey at the BMO this spring is a delusion of grandeur. What players may be thinking in the coming weeks likely centers on where they will be when the season ends.

It would stun me if the roster remains intact through the NHL and AHL trade deadlines. Who might be on their way out? In my opinion, don’t mark anyone as 100 percent safe. Well…nearly anyone.

Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the All-Star break could not come at a better time. I guess it could come in the middle of a winning streak, but that hasn’t happened much during the 2016-17 campaign.

The Hogs are next in action this Friday and have plenty to ponder this week. Rockford hits the break losers of its last five games. The IceHogs dropped all three games this past week. In doing so, they were out scored 14-5, including 8-0 in the third period.

With a .400 points percentage that is the worst in the league, visions of playoff hockey at the BMO this spring is a delusion of grandeur. What players may be thinking in the coming weeks likely centers on where they will be when the season ends.

It would stun me if the roster remains intact through the NHL and AHL trade deadlines. Who might be on their way out? In my opinion, don’t mark anyone as 100 percent safe. Well…nearly anyone.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, currently have a commercial you may have seen occasionally while watching Blackhawks telecasts. The ads, which also run on local Rockford stations, declare that IceHogs hockey is, “a beautiful combination of violence, speed, and intensity.”

It surprises me just a bit that the club would lead off that mix with “violence”. The IceHogs definitely try to get families into the BMO Harris Bank Center. You’d think that fisticuffs would be something the promotions department would put a little further down the list in terms of marketing the team.

Besides, the men of Rockford aren’t doing much fighting these days. They also aren’t drawing as well, either. Or winning.